This description of NIDRR’s peer review process was compiled from existing documentation, such as legislation, the Federal Register, NIDRR and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) policies and procedures, NIDRR’s Long-Range Plan (LRP), and notices inviting applications (NIAs). In addition, the committee interviewed NIDRR and ED management to obtain a more thorough and cohesive understanding of the process.1

Legislative and Departmental Foundation

Title II, section 202, of the Rehabilitation Act (1973, as amended) states that NIDRR will perform scientific peer review of all applications for research, training, and demonstration projects. The peer review is to “be conducted by scientists or other experts in the rehabilitation field, including knowledgeable individuals with disabilities, and the individuals’ representatives” (p. 98). Federal employees are not allowed to be peer reviewers. NIDRR is to provide training for peer reviewers as is deemed necessary and appropriate.

Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program, 2009) states, “The purpose of peer review is to insure that activities supported by NIDRR are of the highest scientific, administrative, and technical quality, and include all appropriate target populations and rehabilitation problems” (p. 217). Applications for awards of $60,000 or more must be reviewed by a peer review panel, with the exception of applications related to evaluation, dissemination of information, or conferences.

In addition, NIDRR follows the peer review requirements of ED. In accordance with ED’s Handbook for the Discretionary Grant Process (ED Handbook), NIDRR annually reviews and updates its procedures in ED’s Application Technical Review Plan (a description of the processes for identifying and involving reviewers, resolving conflicts of interest, working with the review panels, and selecting applications for funding) and maintains Grant Program Competition Files (a collection of all information, decisions, and documentation related to a competition) (U.S. Department of Education, 2009).

Key Personnel in NIDRR’s Peer Review Process

Key personnel in NIDRR’s peer review process include the competition manager, the panel monitor, and the agency’s peer review contractor.


1 The committee conducted interviews with NIDRR and ED management in four sessions during summer 2010 and one session in spring 2011.

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